Lhaegár Rhuanhz, Vice President of Operations for Bright Shadow in the Hanth Cluster, looked around her office, eyes passing lightly across a dozen network status displays, a reassuring blue overall with normal local traffic and the brighter datatrails of the Selvaciy and Synnecy backbones, before returning to rest on the extranet map that hung over her desk, a mesh of links between systems with five ugly black spots near its center – shut-down interchanges in the middle of the Hanth ‘net.
On cue, two incoming trinet images shimmered in next to it, flagged with special governance-priority, supersedence, and shutdown-override codes, and already engaged in an argument that had evidently been going on for some time.
Lhaegár very deliberately folded her ears back flat, and bared her teeth in what, she was confident, could not be mistaken by even the most parochial as a species-specific smile, before keying acceptance of the call.
“I regret that you have not been called here to address your complaints, gentlesophs. That does not call for the attention of one of the Directorate – and you are both, of course, entirely aware of what underlies your complaints, since your intersystem data service has been suspended.”
“Rather, you are here to address the violations of your extranet service agreement. Specifically, you are here, Prince-President Rsh-t-t-n-tf-g” – she gazed at the mists enshrouding the rntrugg – “because one of the agencies of your government endeavored to disrupt communications for your enemies by introducing a data plague into their Xan-Rak-Han system network. Ordinarily such activities are beneath our concern, except that you overreached when you had it target the extranet infrastructure itself.”
“And you, Gene-Archetype lant-hak-nint” – her gaze shifted to the shifting disks of the aklaknak colony – “overreached yourself even further when you went so far as to land a force on the surface of the Tttnfl-Fgflln stargate itself, and attempted to physically disable the extranet router there. Our cousins from Ring Dynamics, I believe, also wish to address this with you. In either case, either of these acts are clear violations of your service agreements and our property both.”
Silence fell. Mists and disks alike shifted uneasily.
“Very well, we admit our… mistake,” Rsh-t-t-n-tf-g hissed. “Yes, some of our agents were zealous. They will be corrected. What is the cost of this error to be? How soon may we be restored?”
“And how much more must we pay to ensure that they are not?” lant-hak-nint added.
“I fear you mistake your negotiating position, inasmuch as this is a negotiation of any kind. There are costs, certainly, incurred by us and our clients both. Your mutual efforts interfered with approximately 3% of the traffic along the Selvaciy backbone for almost a kilobeat; reparations for the substantial economic and other losses involved, as well as the costs of redirection along secondary routes and system repair and revalidation are being assessed. These you will pay; this we require of you absolutely under the terms of our existing contract and the Accords.”
“In addition, however, we require an end to your war. You will each withdraw from the claimed territory of the other within one month of this date; you will further both resign all claims you have in the Fgflln/Lak-Han-Tar system. In order, you understand, to prevent further zealotry from infringing upon Bright Shadow corporate sovereignty.”
“The money, yes, but you have no right—“
“You can’t dictate to nations—“
The rntrugg and the aklaknak glared at each other, neither willing to allow the other to speak first.
“This is not, you understand, a demand or an ultimatum. As a neutral commercial organization we are not in the habit of issuing such things.” She bared her teeth again, without humor. “It is merely a condition we attach to the continuation of your contracts. Should you believe yourselves able to find or contrive a viable alternative to our extranet service, you may feel free to continue your war. Perhaps a particularly large courier fleet?”
“I will contact you again in – shall we say one hour? – to hear your decisions. Bright Shadow, clear.”